Goliad junior heading to state has tennis in his blood (video)
April 27, 2013 at 11:03 p.m.
Updated April 26, 2013 at 11:27 p.m.
GOLIAD - Ryder Billo prides himself on keeping his cool. He reminds himself of the little things he needs to do, takes his spot on the baseline, and waits for his next chance.
At the base line, it's all about keeping calm. The junior takes a deep breath, and bounces the ball a few times, and focuses on his opponent.
"I try not to get angry when I mess up," he said. "You just have to keep in your head that it's just a game. If you're not playing your game that day, it will get better."
In a sport famous for its racket busting tantrums and loud blowups, the junior's quiet is a key part of the chess match taking place on the tennis court each time he steps on it.
And it gives him a considerable advantage.
"He's a great baseliner, but a lot of his has to do with him being cool and collected," said Goliad tennis coach Neal Tolbert. "If he's rattled or nervous, it's hard to tell from the outside. He keeps a level head through almost every experience."
Billo has prided himself on developing a type of cool inside the tempest of action happening on the court. He knows what he's capable of, and works hard to keep his attitude in check.
He's preparing for his first trip to the state tennis tournament after winning the Region IV-2A tournament in boys singles, becoming Goliad's first state qualifier in 27 years, when his father reached the tournament as part of a doubles pair in 1986.
It's come back around
Billo is a natural tennis player. After all, being good at the sport runs in his family.
His father, Billy Bob, has been Ryder's tennis coach since the age of 4, when as a tennis coach in Lockhart he first put a racket in his young son's hands.
They share an uncommon love for the sport.
"He's really shaped me into the player I am today," Ryder said. "I would be on the court with him after school with him when he was practicing," Ryder said. "He put a racket in my hand and started playing with me."
His parents are his biggest supporters. His mother, Kristin, and father travel with him to tournaments over the summer. Billy Bob has been his primary coach since he was young.
His father and doubles partner Robert Shroyer made it to the state tournament after surviving several tough battles to make it through regionals. They would lose in the first round.
"He tells me every now and then," Ryder said. "It was a big deal for them. They played doubles and they had some tough competition at regionals to reach state."
Reaching new heights
Billo made it to the second round of regionals last year, when Goliad was a Class 3A school. This year, the goal was to make it further than that.
"That was the challenge this year, I was expecting to get past district and hopefully make it to state," Billo said. "To get first was awesome. The weights off and I can play loose and free."
Tolbert has watched Billo grow over the years. He's coached tennis in Goliad for five years, and has seen the now junior grow up during that time from a young kid with a lot of potential to someone who is utilizing his considerable abilities to win.
"He's definitely more confident, and the mental aspect of the game has improved drastically from freshman year on," Tolbert said. "Not only that, but physically, he's become stronger. Being active in other sports has helped his tennis game."
He isn't just doing it in tennis either. Billo is the starting second baseman on the baseball team and also runs cross country.
On a roll
Billo is 39-1 this season, his only loss coming to Eric Dehnert from Beeville, who went on to win boys singles in District 30-4A.
"We'll hit with each other and practice and everything," Billo said. "Sometimes he comes up here, and other times I go down there."
Other than that one loss, Billo has been on a roll this spring. He steamrolled his competition at the regional tournament last week: four matches, eight sets, all wins at San Marcos.
"The first two rounds were easier the semifinal or the final," he said. "It's still challenging, you have to play well. When you get that far, you can't be off your game."
Only Schulenburg's Wade Dillenbeck put up any sort of a fight, pushing the junior to 6-4, 7-5, and forcing Billo to dig deep and rally from a three-game hole in the first set.
"He's like 6-2, so he's got a huge serve, and that's a big part of his game," the junior said. "He can get a lot of free points off of that. What's hard is that he'll hit them deep with a lot of top spin, so he would push me back.
"He's real consistent, so you have to just ride it out with him to stay in the point or find a way to move him around."
How does he beat an opponent like that? The same way he tries to beat all of his opponents: by keeping the ball in play and staying calm.
"My game is just consistency," Billo said. "I win a lot by keeping the ball in play, a good forehand and backhand. I don't approach the net too much, I'm not too tall, so I try to keep it to the baseline."